Bringing your new dog from the breeder or adoption center is exciting and a little stressful. It’s a bit like new parents bringing home a new-born baby. You’ll be home along with your pup and expected to care for them from that moment forward with very little support. If you’re a new dog owner, here’s what you can expect:
What to Expect the First Day
Your first day with a puppy is sure to be a wonderful and frustrating experience. A new puppy brings so much love and wonder into your life. You also have to care for and clean up after a puppy. They are basically babies that run around your house. To keep them safe and keep your sanity, you should think about what you’re going to do with a puppy before you get one.
Unless you’re actually raising puppies from birth, you won’t be able to get a dog that’s younger than 7 weeks old. Most breeders agree that the ideal time to send a puppy to their new home is at 8 weeks old. This is when they’ve had enough time socializing with their siblings, but they need to start getting out into the world.
The socialization period of dogs is usually between 6 and 12 weeks of age. Dogs learn so much from rough and tumble play with their siblings. Once you get a puppy though, you need to start exposing them to the world. They need to learn about other people, other animals, and all the sights and sounds of the world around them. Ideally, your puppy should take in these experiences in a positive way. Let friendly neighbors pet them. Let your family snuggle with them. You can also very cautiously introduce your puppy to any other pets you might have in the home. Just make sure to do so in a thoughtful way.
Tips for Early Success
Schedule Your Time
Speaking of introducing your dog to new experiences, you’re going to want to be around for them as much as possible those first days. Most people recommend taking a few days off work to help introduce your puppy to their new home and build trust together. Caring for and cleaning up after a new puppy is going to be tiring. The more time you put in upfront, the easier things should be later on.
Taking the first few days off to spend time with your puppy will really help you get a leg up on training. You have to think about how you want to raise your puppy, but most people recommend potty training from day one. You should also start crate training if you plan on using a crate.
Again, you should start potty training right away. The first thing you should do when you bring your puppy home is set them down where you want them to go potty. In all likelihood, the car ride got them pretty excited and they are probably ready to go. Setting them down where you want them to eliminate then praising them when they do go is a great way to build up their confidence and associate that spot with going potty.
Accidents also happen. Don’t get angry if your puppy goes potty in the house. You should expect it to happen. A puppy has a tiny bladder and really can only hold its urine for a short time. At about 16 weeks they’ll get better at going outside. Until then, you should be taking them out at least every hour and heaping on the praise when they do go outside. For any accidents, get a good enzymatic cleaner. This will help clean up and remove any lasting smells that might make your dog associate the house with eliminating.
Some people are divided on crate training. While it may seem cruel to keep your dog in a crate, rest assured that most dogs feel safe and comfortable in their crate. If you plan on crate training, start on day one.
You’ll want to put your crate somewhere that you spend a lot of time. If you are working from home, put it in the office. If you’re just relaxing, put it in your living room. You want your puppy to get used to being in the crate so they don’t see it as a punishment. It does confine them, but it’s for their safety. You should be using the crate to keep your puppy safe from hurting themselves when you can’t give them your full attention. This means at night you should consider bringing the crate into your bedroom too. Your dog can get used to sleeping in it, but they’ll also find comfort in being near you.
Set Up Healthy Habits
Before even getting your puppy, you should have thought about how you want to raise them. Will they have free reign of the house? Will they have a never-ending bowl of food? How often will they go for walks? Or even what other kinds of exercise will they get?
These are all things you should have already figured out. And now that your puppy is home, start trying to make it a reality. Just remember to remain flexible. Puppies can sleep up to 20 hours a day, so your playtime or walks might not be as frequent as you had planned on.
You should try showing them areas of the house that you want them to be in and block off areas that are off-limits. Whatever routine or schedule you’ve decided to follow, just remember that positive reinforcement is the way to go. When your dog does something you don’t like, redirect them. When they do something you want, let the praise rain down on them.
Establish a Nighttime Routine
While you’re trying to get your dog into their schedule, be sure to pay special attention to their nighttime routine. Your pup is going to be sleeping a lot, but you should do your best to keep them up right before bed. This will make sure they are tired enough to fall asleep easily when they should.
You will also want to restrict their access to food and water about 3 hours before bed. A puppy is going to eliminate within about 20 minutes of eating or drinking. By restricting their access, you can help avoid overnight accidents. Be sure to also get up every 3 to 4 hours to take them outside. There is no way a young pup will be able to hold it overnight, so plan on getting up a few times every night.
Once your dog goes potty, put them right back into their crate. Even if they whine, ignore them. If you go get them from their crate, they’ll associate whining with getting what they want. Once that routine starts, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to get them back into good habits.
Look Forward to Tomorrow
Raising a new puppy is particularly difficult during the first 24 hours. Just remember that they are young and will slowly learn all the habits you teach them. Be patient and understanding.